“Gray’s Anatomy” – except fer realz

I had originally planned to write something on the giant boo-hoo story that my romantic life has become… but that was before I did some shadowing in general surgery.

Needless to say, I can’t think about a lot else right now, so that’s what you’re getting.  I DETERMINE THE FATE OF THIS BLOG, PEONS.

So anyway.

I was signed up to spend some time in the OR (the operating room) right after class on Tuesday.  Got lost a few times on the way there, but that’s what happens when you build a hospital organized in a bloody circle.  Stupid.

When I finally found the desk to sign in, I discovered my preceptor was going to be a touch late since he was stuck in a complicated surgery.  I decided I’d rather wait for him to come out than harass him while he’s working.  So I waited.

For 2 hours.

No one’s fault, really.  The doc was working and I don’t have a pager so I couldn’t wander away to have lunch.  Trouble is, that put me in a bit of a nasty spot.  To summarize:

  1. I was working on 5 hours of sleep.
  2. I hadn’t eaten anything except a granola bar since 7:00am.
  3. I was hella nervous.
  4. And I was about to walk into the OR for the first time.

You see my predicament.

Nevertheless, my preceptor eventually showed up, spoke with the patient, spoke with me, then off we went to see the wizard.  (The Wonderful Wizard of Or, badum PSHHH.)

Scrubbing in was a mite more embarrassing than I’d anticipated.  The resident was wonderful and helped walk me through how to wash up properly.  But because everything was running 2 hours late, everyone was really rushed to prep the patient.  And prep me.  Putting on the gown was a bit of a disaster – they kept telling me to stand still, “DON’T MOVE,” in a very insistent, ominous way.  Apparently there was a string out of place that I might’ve touched or something.  Not that they said so.  I guess they failed to take into account my overwhelming inexperience with the whole thing.

None of this helped the fact that my hands were trembling like crazy.  Sugar low + little sleep + lots of stress = maximal nerves.

The surgeon had me stand right on the midline so I could watch everything up close after warning me with something to this effect: “If you feel woozy or faint, that’s totally fine, just find somewhere to sit down for a minute.  BUT, if you’re going to keel over, make sure you fall backwards.  DO NOT fall into my sterile field.  Crack your head on the floor, but DO NOT contaminate my sterile field.”  Ahhh, surgeons.  So wonderfully blunt.

My heart was pumping a bit too hard as he made the first incision with a cauterizing blade.  It was weird, seeing no blood, but lots of smoke. (First mistake – wearing contacts. The smoke’s a killer.)  And the fat underneath was yellow.  Like, properly yellow.  Just like in the textbooks.  And the muscle underneath was a ruddy brown.  Just like it’s supposed to be.  And the intestines underneath that, perfectly pink and squishy, with yellow, fatty tags all over.  Just fantastic.

Surprisingly, I stayed firmly on my feet.  No palpitations, no pre-syncope, no flushing… I nearly punched the air for joy.  VICTORY!

The rest of the surgery went well.  I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands in there – the surgeon was really nice about it and let me do the easy stuff that the clinical med student should have been doing.  Snipping sutures, holding back intestines, that sort of thing.  It was all a bit surreal, really.  I actually had my hands inside someone else’s body.  Somebody alive.  Palpated his liver and the whole bit.  (I had his liver in my hand…)

I suppose everybody says that the first time.  Hell, some of you may actually be rolling your eyes right now.  But that first time is a little strange and a lot exciting.  I’m bummed that I don’t get another chance to get in the OR for my elective, but that only makes me more excited for next year’s surgery rotation.

As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the smell out of my head.  There’s nothing like burnt-people smell in the afternoon.

So tell me, dear readers – what’s your crazy, first-time-in-an-OR story (as a patient or otherwise)?

 – Atalanta

Image: jannoon028 | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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8 Comments

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8 responses to ““Gray’s Anatomy” – except fer realz

  1. Ameer

    I don’t have a really good first-time-in-an-OR story, although I did just about faint when I saw the surgeon take out a tumour as big as my head.

    However, today was a good day in the OR. The surgeon was doing a total abdominal hysterectomy with a robot. I was pushing a rod inside the uterus to create some tension on the uterus so the surgeon could cut all the ligaments off and tie off the blood vessels. Anyways, once she had completely resected the uterus and cervix, she said, “Pull it out.”

    “Ehhhh, WAT?” I stuttered.
    “Yeah, pull it out through the vagina.”

    After a few minutes in which I fought to pull the uterus out of the vagina and had a few horrible moments where I thought it was going to rip, I pulled it out. Yes, I pulled out a uterus and cervix and HELD IT IN MY HAND.

    I put it on the table, and gazed at wonderingly. Then I had this horrible thought-how does a baby fit inside that tiny little thing????

    • Yeah, it was a bit weird when we finished resecting his colon… got to cut it completely in half to check out the tumour that was in it. Hah, it was actually hard to keep the colon from sliding onto the floor… Ewwwwww.

  2. Jenn

    Now I understand why you were eyeing up my mint Aero bar with such enthusiasm.

  3. -K.

    I would have fallen into his sterile field. One glance at organs and business and I’d be all “F**k you, f**k your sterile field, my delicate sensibilities are gonna fall wherever they want.”
    But then, I’m not a doctor.

  4. My first time in the OR was watching/assisting an abdominal hysterectomy followed by a vaginal hysterectomy. I did okay during the first OR, but the second OR was right before lunch (i.e. low blood sugar) and I was hot from being crammed with the other OR staff, so I almost ended up on the floor. When the attending found me afterwards, he commented that he was surprised I’d made it that far, as I’d looked as white as a ghost through the entire morning.

    Ah…good times. This is why I’m an internist.

  5. I know I’m a little late to the commenting game for this post, but I am going to do it anyway. My two lasting surgical memories are 1) getting frustrated during a colon resection for a child who had Crohn’s disease. They were trying to reanastamose the ends and the repair kept falling apart. I was doing nothing but holding a retractor and I wanted to scream bloody murder and I am a rather patient individual (and apparently humble…) I never thought surgery was for me, but that day sealed the deal. 2) The first time I saw a C-section. I did my surgery rotation first so I was used to the OR being like a symphony of small delicate moves leading to a beautiful procedure. I was NOT expecting all of the blunt vulgarity of the C-Section. The pulling and tugging on the uterus to open it up (then again, it is one big muscle) as well as the overwhelming sensation of warmth as the amniotic fluid gushed over my gloved hands when the sac was ruptured (I was always in the line of fire since the 3rd year med student always holds the bladder protector!)

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